Sunday, May 18, 2008

Balkan exceptionalism

May 15th 2008
From The Economist print edition

What Serbia's election says about the European Union's enlargement

Illustration by Peter Schrank

A BRITISH tabloid set a high standard for bombast when it once took credit for the re-election of a Tory government with the headline: “It's The Sun Wot Won It”. This week European Union leaders were taking credit for another election upset: the unexpected success of the pro-European coalition led by the Serbian president, Boris Tadic, in the general election on May 11th. The Serbs had “clearly chosen Europe,” said the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner. Jan Marinus Wiersma, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, declared that the election was “a form of referendum in which citizens gave their support for the country's future membership of the EU.”

That may be a little premature. It is true that Mr Tadic's block is called the “Coalition for a European Serbia”. His supporters waved the EU flag of gold stars on blue. But Mr Tadic did not win outright, and it matters enormously which parties end up in a new coalition government. If the wrong parties cobble together a deal, they could yet lead Serbia into deeper isolation.

Yet it would be absurd to deny that the EU played a role in the election. European governments agreed to offer Serbia a couple of timely (if symbolic) concessions just days before the vote. Serbs may feel “humiliated” that 19 EU countries have recognised the independence of Kosovo after the province broke away in February, says a diplomat. But the EU also reminded them that Europe is about good things, such as freedom to travel. If it was not exactly the EU “wot won it”, European governments did at least send a signal that they would rather have Serbia in the club than brooding dangerously outside.

That holds true also for Serbia's neighbours in the western Balkans, who are being jollied along with visa concessions and the like, and assured that they enjoy a “European perspective” (to use the Brussels jargon for eventual membership). It all feels rather pragmatic, even generous. And that is odd, because when it comes to enlargement in general, older members of the club are in a foul temper.

It is not only the future that causes alarm. The mood is sulphurous over Romania and Bulgaria, which joined in 2007. Bulgaria has already seen tens of millions of EU funds frozen amid fears of fraud. The figure of suspended aid could rise to billions when a European Commission monitoring report comes out this summer. The new Italian government is talking menacingly about restricting Romanian migrants. The latest Eurobarometer poll on enlargement found majority support for the admission of only one new country: Croatia, a relatively advanced place whose beaches heave with sizzling Italians and Germans each summer. Croatia is on course to join in 2010 or 2011.

Even more paradoxically, some of the countries keenest on admitting Serbia and others have voters who are the most alarmed by enlargement. Migrant-phobic Italy led the way (together with Greece) in arguing for the EU to be flexible over demands that Serbia co-operate with prosecutors hunting war criminals. Austria has lobbied tirelessly for Balkan bits of the former Austro-Hungarian empire, starting with Croatia. Yet Austrian voters now oppose admitting any Balkan country other than Croatia by large margins (and a whopping 81% are against Turkish membership). Similarly, French ministers may rejoice that Serbia's voters choose Europe, but in 2006 France was pushing the idea that future enlargement should be assessed according to the EU's “absorption capacity”, a dangerously vague term that includes voters' “perceptions”. The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is publicly against Turkey's membership.

If enlargement is so unpopular, why do so many EU leaders want the credit for Serbia's vote for Europe? There are two, linked explanations. The first is that holding the door open to Balkan countries such as Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and the rest does not imply support for enlargement in general—it is a specific strategy for preventing further instability in Europe's backyard. And the second is that enlargement mostly works like that.

Consolidation, not enlargement

Arguably, enlargement as a general project does not exist. Moves to expand the EU are more often responses to particular crises, and they trigger big squabbles until it becomes clear that no better alternative exists (the 1995 expansion to take in Finland, Sweden and Austria being the exception). Greece was admitted in 1981 to bind it to the West, even though everybody feared it was not ready. It took nine years of argument to get Spain and Portugal in, amid cries of alarm (loudest in France) over cheap Iberian workers and farm produce. In December 1989, as Communist regimes fell across eastern Europe, the French president, Fran├žois Mitterrand, proposed that ex-Warsaw Pact nations should be invited to join a loose “European confederation” (the idea died, not least because Mr Mitterrand invited Russia too). The EU hopes of Bulgaria and Romania only became plausible during the Kosovo crisis of 1999, when their airspace was needed to allow NATO jets to bomb Serbia.

Today's Serbia and the other Balkan applicants for entry may not be easy cases. But their admission does not pose “existential” questions for the EU, notes one diplomat, just a lot of hard work on building up clean, capable governments, in which scary nationalists are marginalised. Croatian negotiators even talk smoothly of “consolidation” rather than “enlargement” nowadays. Larger candidates for the EU, notably Turkey and Ukraine, cannot do that. They pose big questions, such as how to relate to the Muslim world or how to live with Russia.

The Serbian election could have been a lot worse. A thumping win for nasty nationalists would have seriously delayed EU expansion into the western Balkans. But supporters of admitting Turkey, say, should avoid premature congratulation. The western Balkans remains an exceptional case. Enlargement as a broader cause was not the winner this week.

The Balkans' bakers keep on rolling

By Nick Thorpe
BBC News, Kosovo

Almost all the bakers of the old Yugoslavia were Albanians, from one small corner of Kosovo. They have lived through war and upheaval but the toughest test for some came in February this year when Kosovo broke away from Serbia.

he first poppies of summer are blood scarlet on the shores of the White Drim river as we drive out of Prizren, up onto the slopes of Mount Pashtrik.

The lunchtime bread in the largest village, Djonaj, is white and so fresh it melts like chocolate in your mouth.

Dine Rexhbecaj is 50 and home for a short break to see his family. He has eight children, six girls and two boys. They live here while he works in distant Zagreb, in Croatia, seven or eight months of the year.

"I like my work," he said. "But I would hope for something better for my children. Now that Kosovo is independent, I hope they can find work here and not travel abroad."

'Bread money'

The village streets bustle with women and children on their way home from school. Four little girls, each dressed in a different shade of pink, giggle by.

In a graveyard beside the road, children play ball, and brown cows graze among red and black Albanian flags.

Houses are being repaired with money sent from abroad, "bread money" one might call it. It goes towards new bathrooms in the traditional extended-family compounds, and to repair the tall outside walls and daunting gateways.

This is a male-dominated society but the men are gone, scattered to the four corners of the Balkans, to Serbia and Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia.


Working a baker's dozen of hours each day, they roll out the much sought after burek - spinach or cheese, potato or meat-filled pies - round breads and crescent-moon-shaped rolls, star-scattered with sesame seeds.

And when they finish their long shifts, the fathers can only dream of the children growing up without them.

"I started work as a baker in Montenegro when I was 13," Alush Maloku tells me in Planeja, a village at the end of a mountain road, hunched against the Albanian border.

"Then I came home and worked as a shepherd for 12 years."

Then he went back into baking, this time in western Serbia. All these places were part of one country, then Yugoslavia.

In 1979 when his father died, he came home to run the village shop. As the eldest son, he had to care for his family.

Trade map

We are sitting barefoot, cross-legged on a rug on his porch, looking across the valley at the ruins of his old house.

We knew we were in trouble when the Serbs stopped delivering our flour
Azem Collaku, retired baker

American B52 bombers blasted the Serbs into submission here in 1999 after the Albanian villagers had been driven out. The Serbian army, living in quarters nearby, sustained some of its heaviest losses in the air raids.

Unexploded bombs still lie buried deep in the earth. Alush said he knows of five people from a neighbouring village who have lost limbs as they stumbled across war litter.

"We paid a high price for liberation," he says.

"Why do all the men here become bakers?" I ask 79-year-old Azem Collaku from the village of Zym.

He rolls out a mental map of Kosovo, divided by traditional trades.

Father and son bakers Azem Collaku, on the right, and Afrim
Keeping it in the family: Azem Collaku, right, with his son Afrim

The bakers from the Harsi i Thata - the dry hearth - so called because of its paucity of water. The builders from a certain valley. The farmers from the flat, fertile lands between Prizren and Djakova.

Azem worked for 40 years in the family bakery in northern Kosovo, in the ethnically-mixed town of Mitrovica. In 1999, when the Nato bombing started, the hostility of the local Serbs to the Albanians increased.

Like all the Albanians here, he tells the history of the Balkans in bakers' terms.

"We knew we were in trouble when the Serbs stopped delivering our flour," said Azem.

So they had to stop baking.

"The strange thing was, the day we fled the city, the flour we had paid for weeks before actually arrived. But by then it was too dangerous to stay," he added.

Radical youths

His son Afrim worked in the Serbian capital Belgrade until January this year. Then Serb refugees from Kosovo smashed the windows of the bakery in a spate of anger, on the eve of Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia.

"They didn't like the idea that we could come to work in their country, while they couldn't return to Kosovo," said Afrim, almost sympathetically.

Bakery in Pristina, Kosovo
Kosovo declared independence in February 2008

But he is hopeful the bakery will soon re-open after the defeat of Serb nationalists in last weekend's elections.

Only a month ago, radical youths in Sombor, in northern Serbia, handed out free bread outside an Albanian-run bakery to try to drive it out of business.

And like-minded youths posted a film clip of themselves on the video sharing website YouTube setting fire to another Albanian bakery. (You can see the video below)

In the Kosovan capital Pristina, Ramadan and Lerim from the village of Djonaj load logs into their wood-burning ovens, and mix flour and water and great cakes of yeast from Serbia into a stainless-steel drum.

"There is no better job than this," Ramadan explains. "You can sleep soundly knowing that the money you spend you earned with your own sweat."

He blows out the candles, by the light of which he kneaded the new loaves. Only the early morning sunshine breaks through the windows here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Serb Problem

Excellent editorial from the Wall Street Journal .

Slobodan Milosevic must be smiling in his coffin. Earlier this week, a Serbian mob took over a United Nations courthouse in the northern Kosovo city of Mitrovica to protest Kosovo independence. In the ensuing melee a Ukrainian policeman serving with the U.N. force was killed; more than a hundred others were injured. In Belgrade, similar mobs attacked foreign embassies, setting part of the U.S. mission ablaze.

As in the Milosevic days, the Serbs were whipped into this frenzy by their leaders. Having spurned U.N. talks over Kosovo's future for years, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and other nationalists appealed to Serb feelings of persecution and aggrievement the moment the Kosovars decided on their own to declare independence. "It is clear to us that the violence was orchestrated," said the deputy U.N. administrator for Kosovo, Larry Rossin, after the Mitrovica riots.

Belgrade's intentions aren't hard to divine. Its government ministers are traveling the world to stop countries from recognizing Kosovo's independence, with a view to undoing it one day. Moscow and Beijing encourage Serbia in this fantasy. As a backup plan, it may settle for a partition of Kosovo with the mostly ethnic Serb area around Mitrovica run out of Belgrade.

European and American leaders need to face up to the political challenge posed by the Serbs and their allies in Moscow and Beijing. Since Kosovo joined the Slovenes, Croats, Bosnians, Macedonians and Montenegrins in casting their lot with freedom in independence, Serbia has received a free pass on the intellectual argument. It is a question of national sovereignty, the Serbs say, and even some of Kosovo's backers concede the point.

But it's not a question of national sovereignty, at least not Serbian sovereignty. Before the U.N. took over Kosovo's administration, the region was part of Yugoslavia. The U.N. Security Council resolution that set up that mission in 1999 does not mention the word "Serbia." In the meantime, what was left of Yugoslavia died and Montenegro split away.

A new Serbia was born with a new constitution adopted by referendum that claimed Kosovo as its own; the Kosovars had no vote, and in any event nine in 10 of them don't want anything to do with Serbia. Last month's move toward independence was a classic case of legitimate national self-determination, albeit closely supervised by the "international community." It went off peacefully, except for the Serb outbursts.

Outside military, diplomatic and economic support will be crucial to Kosovo's future. Serb thugs in the streets, and Serb thuggery in international diplomatic salons, have succeeded in giving certain countries pause. Brazil and India don't want to stick their necks out and recognize Kosovo lest Russia and China get angry. The Muslim world has been silent about this new, tiny, democratic Muslim state in Europe. A weakened, much less a partitioned, Kosovo would seriously derail a decade-plus effort led by the U.S. to build a stable Balkans.

Serbia did too much harm in the 1990s to get a free pass on its destructive behavior over Kosovo today. Fortunately, with every other country in its immediate vicinity opting for a future in the West, Serbia isn't strategically important. With NATO on the case -- and it will need to stay -- Serbia isn't a threat to Kosovo's sovereignty. The 16,000 NATO troops in Kosovo, as well as in a still unsettled Bosnia, are the first line of defense against Serb recidivism.

If Serbs want their country to become the Belarus of the Balkans -- an isolated appendage of Russia cut off from the West -- that's their choice. In May's parliamentary elections, they will be able to make it. Mr. Kostunica has teamed up with the Radical Party, which wants to discontinue membership talks with the EU unless Brussels acknowledges Serbia's claim to Kosovo. Serb President Boris Tadic, who barely beat the Radical's candidate in elections earlier in the year, represents the pro-Western camp.

Should the Serbs see their future in the West and not with Russia, the first step is to desist from violence. Eventually, they will have to recognize an independent Kosovo. In the meantime, Serbia's leaders don't deserve our understanding or indulgence. They deserve the world's condemnation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Obama and Kosovo

The anti Albanian crowd has been spreading false rumors that Obama does not support Kosovo’s independence and that somehow he will be more pro Serb. You will see comments like this all over Serbian, Russian and other Slavic websites. They assume that because there are a lot of Serbs in Illinois and because of Rade Blagojevic (governor of Illinois who is ethic Serb) he will be more favorable towards Serbs. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Obama made his feeling clear last night at the debate on MSNBC when he was asked by Tim Russert to comment what he would do if Russia threatens Kosovo. He said U.S is obligated to defend Kosovo and that he will work with the NATO and E.U to do so. This talk about Obama being a pro Serb or not a supporter of Kosovo is utter nonsense. His comments last night were pretty clear on where he stand on this issue. The fact that there are a lot of Serbs in Illinois apparently carries no weight on this issue as far as he is concerned. The anti Albanian crowd has been hopelessly hoping that because Obama is running against Clinton, that somehow he will repudiate Clinton’s policy in the Balkans. In fact he said Clinton did a very good job in the Balkans and he agreed with that policy. Still not convinced? Please go watch the debate on MSNBC.

Justice for Kosovo – Chance for Serbia

A reality check by two reality based Serbs:

By Andrej Nosov and Dragan Popovic

After the declaration of independence of Kosovo and the "spontaneous" reaction of "rage and anger" depicted in the Prime Minister's words, demolished Embassies, public lynching of those with different political opinions, as well as the declarative call to "peace and peaceful protests", Serbia has hit rock bottom. It is less of a problem that in the previous decades we have gotten used to seeing violence, living in it every day and doing it spontaneously to people around us. It is more of a problem that the state politics of Slobodan Milosevic, the politics of violence, has officially returned as the main, driving force, that on which there is a consensus even of the democratic Presedent Tadic, and almost President Nikolic and all the other actes gathered around the leader of the defense of Kosovo, Vojislav Kostunica.

This rock bottom, and this fear that every normal citizen feels regarding what is going to happen the next day, is actually another big chance that we are once again missing. It is a chance for the society in Serbia to face their errors of judgement, to reconsider the politics of the past few decades, to look back and draw the line underneath the decade of conquest, murder, ethnic cleansing, terror over their own citizens and the inhabitants of the region. Kosovo has not been under the rule of Serbia since the day Slobodan Milosevic ended his project by retreating the army and police forces from Kosovo. The politics of conquering territories and nineteenth-century centralistic nationalism is facing a breakdown. Whether it will take something else on its way down, depends on the elite groups in Serbia. Or maybe new politics will arise in its place, appropriate for the modern age, based on cooperation and respect.

Everyone is in wonder because 17 February has happened to us, because there was a celebration and declaration of something we knew had happened in June 1999. Everyone makes excuses for violent behaviour, ancient rights and other mythologies by "our" right to rule "them". Breaking things in Belgrade, they say, is not much in relation to what has happened to us. They talk of cultural heritage, NATO bombing, the Serbs that died in Kosovo. There is no mention of the Albanians except as "separatists, terrorists, immature people, uncivilized snatchers of our land". Everyone is silent about Albanians. Because, I guess, one does not mention the name of evil. And the evil that Belgrade has done to the Albanians has symbolically ended for them on that very 17 February.

State enemy No 1 is Natasa Kandic, because she dared to sit in the Kosovo Parliament in the name of different values. Some media say that she shouldn't exist. Others have a problem with Sonja Biserko, Biljana Kovacevic Vuco. The rest would be satisfied with banning and destroying LDP or the expedition to the apartment of Ceda Jovanovic and insulting and lynching the politics and citizens which he represents. These steps are well known, Milosevic used them too.

Kostunica is now simply applying the matrix he had inherited from his predecessor. Just as he had copied the rhetoric, he also did everything to leave Serbia in the gutter and through fear and terrot enforce the final establishment of the new Russian province, which is obviously his goal.
The last colony in Europe gained its freedom on 17 February 2008. From 1912 Kosovo has been ruled by boot and sabre. The people living there had no say in anything. Military authorities were imposed on them since the occupation. At that time, they were pronounced to be a nation not mature enough for democracy. Instead of a civil state and civil management, they recieved a hoard of officers and officials, mostly the worst ones, sent by punishment to Kosovo.

Many testimonies from that time speak of violence, discrimination and collonial behaviour of the new masters towards the Albanian population in the region. While Kosovo was ruled by the army, the intelligence in Belgrade was making plans on how to change the national make-up of the population. The documents of the Serbian Culture Club lead by Slobodan Jovanovic speak of horrible and cruel entertainment of the Serbian national elite. People are refered to as merchandise, something not alive, calculations are made about how many people should move in and move out from different places. The exact same standards will be applied much more efficiently at the end of the 20th century by academics, writers, poets, bishops... "Humane displacement" will become the official politics which will finally result in the creation of Republika Srpska. That is why it is possible today to speak of territory, but not the people, to pledge in Kosovo, but not give pensions to the Albanians, to erase the complete population from the electorial register or the share of free stocks.

The parties changed names, from the National Radical to the League of Communists, from the Socialist Party of Serbia to the Serbian Radical or the Democratic Party of Serbia. The continuity of colonial rule was maintained after the Second World War through military management. Even though the former colonists were forbidden to return to Kosovo, new ones soon arrived.

Authority was established through bloody massacres in Drenica and all over Kosovo. Once again there were no "conditions" for civil authorities. The UDBA sovereignly ruled Kosovo until 1966. Many people, rich today, owe their family posessions to the gold stolen from Kosovo Albanians. After the Brioni Plenum there was an ease, but as soon as the ruling circles saw that Kosovo inhabits people who want their rights and who will not reconcile with the existing situation, everything went to the way it used to be. One year after Tito's death, the Yugoslav National Army "establishes order" in the streets of Pristina, Pec, Prizren... The number of killed Albanians has never been revealed. In the end, in 1989, the "easily promised speed" completely overtakes the legitimate politics. The sovereignity of Kosovo is annuled by tanks, martial law is established and a system very similar to apartheid.

During the nineties, if you were an Albanian, you could not live without fear, let alone work in a school, hospital, the police, or government institutions. Even when the Albanians reacted to such a situation with violence, the elite circles in Serbia did not wonder why, but ravaged villages, civillians, women and children. To be an Albanian, male or female, meant a death sentence. Many were saved by some money or gold. For others, there was no way out.

The nineties are a disgrace for Serbain history, and that must be said out loud in reference to Kosovo. Today in Kosovo, as well as Serbia and the other countries in the region, a large number of people is waiting for the answer to the question where their loved ones are, what happened to them, who killed them. Vojislav Kostunica and his security services hide the answer to that question. Boris Tadic surpresses the answer to that question becase of "stability and the future" and tycoon interests.

There is no justice for the Serbs either, if we do not tell the others what we have done to them. There will be no other future if we conceal the facts. And it is futile to rant about crimes over Serbs, world injustice, double standards... Ivica Dacic clearly stated on the parliamentary speakers stand that the politics of the nineties has been confirmed once more. When in 1999 revenge and retaliation against the Serbs started, there were no academics or scientists who would look for the cause in the behaviour of the state of Serbia. Or even to be determined according to the 800.000 banished people, mass murders in Meja, Djakovica, Suva Reka, Podujevo, Izbica, Vucitrn... Maybe that would have saved more Serbs than any books written in the name of the defense of Kosovo and such politics. Or any journalist scribblings which announced lynching, which the newspapers are full of these days.

The complete state apparatus was involved in hiding the tracks of mass crimes. Bodies were buried all over Serbia, burned in factories and power plants, sunk into the Danube or Perucac. The policemen, officers, members of National Security, politicians, local tycoons and enterpreneurs, judges and prosecutors, the Government and political parties were involved too. And after all that, Serbia is in wonder. Not a trace of regret, sense of responsibility, readiness to change behaviour. The people directly responsible for Serbia's loss of the right to rule the Kosovo people, today decide our own fate. They will not admit to their mistakes. Instead of that, they will try to tailor the international legislature according to their own dreams.

To turn it into a calcified shell which cannot be adjusted to new situations. Because that is how one rules Serbia. That is how laws and constitutions are made here. Full of strong words and phrases, but inapplicable. Legitimately and legally, the democratic and free part of the world estimated that we cannot terrorize our own citizens forever. Maybe Russia or China still can, but that time will soon pass too. Then the people in Chechnya or Tibet will also gain their deserved place in the community of independent nations. The world's decision (at least the better part of it) to recognize Kosovo, should not be taken as punishment by Serbia. It is not a punishment, it is an opportunity. Not only for Serbia, but for the whole world to strengthen the mechanisms of the protection of human rights and more decisively defy the terror of local dictators. From Beijing to Havana, from Teheran to Moscow.

Serbia is obliged to recognize the Republic of Kosovo. To give a hand of friendship to their legally elected representatives, to help them establish a modern, democratic society. Not because we are more advanced or cultured, but because we owe at least that much to the Kosovo society. And through Kosovo, we can open the issue of the society in Serbia. To reconsider all the illusons and false values, reform institutions, start creating a critical conscience in young people, to reverse the value system and set things in their place. Serbia must, from the mistakes of the past, learn the lessons which will take us to building a new society and a different future. By making violence legitimate and attacking people with different political opinions, the authorities are only continuing the old and already seen practice. Those who think that they will destroy critical thinking and the need for different relations with the neigbours in this way, are sadly mistaken. The mass "events of the people" just take us back and create new mistakes which will cost us dearly.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

US embassy in Belgrade attacked

Ok, so now Belgrade is in the same league as Gaza Strip, Karachi and Tehran where burning US flags is a fashion. These images of U.S embassy going up in flames are being beamed right now thru out US and every other country. I have always said, you can always count on Serbs to bungle it. With leader like Kostunica, and Nikolic who needs enemies? The 51% who voted for Tadic are being overrun by the other half that voted for Nikolic. This is what you get when half of your population supports a neo nazi party. I only feel sorry for the ½ of the Serbian population, but I wish good for all of Serbia for the sake of the children of this country. When will Serbia wake up? The flames of hate and nationalism will burn you again.

BBC article below:

Several hundred protesters have attacked the US and other embassies in Serbia's capital in anger at Western support for Kosovo's independence.

Protesters broke into the US compound and briefly set part of the embassy alight. Firemen later found an unidentified charred body inside.

The UK, Belgian, Croatian and Turkish missions were also attacked.
The violence followed a peaceful rally earlier by at least 150,000 people outside the main parliament building.
The US, UK, Germany and Italy are among those to have recognised Kosovo.
Kosovo belongs to the Serbian people
Vojislav Kostunica
In pictures: Belgrade rally

Earlier, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica delivered an impassioned speech condemning the territory's secession.
"As long as we live, Kosovo is Serbia. Kosovo belongs to the Serbian people," he told the flag-waving crowd.
Most Serbs regard Kosovo as their religious and cultural heartland.
Ripped flag
The United States expressed outrage at the attack.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the Serbian government should be reminded "of its responsibility to protect diplomatic facilities".

The main rally outside parliament was peacefulSerbian President Boris Tadic appealed for calm.
"This only keeps Kosovo distant from Serbia," he said.
About 1,000 protesters attacked the building, throwing flares through the window while others scaled walls to rip down the US flag.

At the time there appeared to be no police protecting the embassy, but riot police later intervened, firing tear gas.
The fires raged for half an hour, and when firemen finally managed to get inside the building they found a charred body.
The body has not been identified, though US officials said all embassy staff of US nationality had been accounted for.

State department spokesman Sean McCormack said the protesters had entered the chancellery but did not breach the embassy's secure area, and the entire compound had now been cleared.
Washington received assurances from Mr Kostunica that there would be no repeat of the incident, he added.
Kosovo 'stolen'
Several other embassies were also attacked by crowds. There are reports of various businesses and restaurants being attacked.

Up to 100 people are believed to have been injured.
Serbia, supported by Russia and China, says Kosovo's Sunday declaration violates international law.
During Thursday's rally, ultra-nationalist leader Tomislav Nikolic accused the US and EU of trying to steal Kosovo.

"Hitler could not take it away from us, and neither will today's [Western powers]."
After the speeches, the crowd marched to the city's biggest church, the Temple of Saint Sava.
Thick, black smoke had also earlier billowed from the crossing point at

"We are here in support of the Serbs who still live in Kosovo," Dejan Milosevic, one of the organisers, told the Associated Press news agency.
The Kosovo police, backed by Czech troops from the Nato-led peacekeeping force, put a steel barrier across the road and were able to hold their line.
Protest rallies were also held in the Bosnian Serb republic (Republika Srpska). There were unconfirmed reports of injuries as several hundred protesters clashed with police outside the US consulate in Banja Luka.
In the coming weeks, an almost 2,000-strong EU mission will be deployed to help the country develop its police force and judiciary.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cheers to the new future- U.S. recognizes independent Kosovo

(CNN) -- The United States officially recognized Kosovo -- the Balkan state which split from Serbia on Sunday -- as an independent nation on Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a written statement.

"We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion," Rice said. "President Bush has responded affirmatively to a request from Kosovo to establish diplomatic relations between our two countries."

European Union nations Monday were also starting to recognize Kosovo as the world's newest nation, agencies have reported.

Britain, Germany and France were among EU member states which said they would establish official diplomatic ties with the Balkan state following a meeting of European ministers in Brussels Monday, according to The Associated Press. "We intend to recognize Kosovo," France foreign minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters afterwards.

EU foreign ministers decided that the bloc's 27 member nations should decide individually whether to recognise Kosovo.

They agreed its secession was a one-off under international law, justified by Belgrade's oppression and rejection of a negotiated final status for the region.

But other EU nations including Greece, Spain and Romania have signalled that they would not follow suit amid concerns about the precedent that such a move would set.

Facing severe economic problems and high unemployment, Kosovo is banking on the support of Western powers including the United States and key EU nations to give it immediate backing.

But while independence is broadly favored by the West, U.N. Security Council members Russia and China have expressed outright opposition and "grave concern" over Kosovo's unilateral decision.

Serbia insists it will not respond with violence to Kosovo's sovereignty claim, although it refuses to recognize the move.

In the Serb-dominated northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica, scores of Kosovo Serbs took to the streets waving Serbian flags in a demonstration against independence.

U.S. President George W. Bush said he acknowledged Monday Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia, but stopped short of a formal recognition.Watch mixed reaction to independence declaration Video

"We'll watch and see how the events unfold today," Bush told NBC News from Tanzania. "But the Kosovars are now independent. It's something that I have advocated, along with my government."

Asked earlier Monday whether the United States would officially recognize Kosovo, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "Stay tuned."

"We will not recognize Kosovo independence because we do not consider it in line with international law," said Spain's foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos before Monday's meeting. "There is a division within the international community, division in the Security Council and division in the European Union, and we don't know what will be the consequences for the region," he said. Spain has struggled with separatists in its Basque region.

"Our position is that this declaration should be disregarded by the international community," as well as by the head of the U.N. mission in Kosovo, Moscow's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin said on Sunday.

In Beijing Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao expressed grave concern over Kosovo's move for independence.

"Kosovo's unilateral act can produce a series of results that will lead to seriously negative influence on peace and stability in the Balkan region ..." Liu said, according to China's Xinhua news agency. He called on Kosovo and Serbia to seek a solution under international law.

Fireworks lit the skies and crowds filled the streets of Kosovo's capital Sunday after the territory's parliament declared independence from Serbia.

"The day has come," Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, a former separatist guerrilla leader, told his parliament. "From this day onwards, Kosovo is proud, independent and free." Watch how U.N. is divided over Kosovo's future Video

The province has been under U.N. administration and patrolled by NATO troops since a 1999 bombing campaign that halted a Serb-led campaign against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.

Thousands of people swarmed Pristina's streets ahead of Sunday's parliamentary declaration, singing, dancing and holding signs in freezing wind after the vote was announced. But Serbs consider the territory the cradle of their civilization, and protesters clashed with police outside the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade as the declaration was issued.

Serbia said it will not oppose independence with violence, but Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said his country will never accept the establishment of a "false country" on its territory.

Russia expressed similar concerns at Sunday's emergency Security Council meeting in New York.

"Our concern is for the safety of Serbs and other minorities in Kosovo," Churkin stated, adding that Russia will "strongly warn against any attempts at repressive measures should Serbs in Kosovo decide not to comply with this unilateral proclamation of independence."

About 100,000 Serbs still live in Kosovo, making up about 5 percent of the population, and Kostunica said Serbs have been killed or lost their land in the eight-plus years the country has been under international rule. But Fatmir Sejdiu, the nascent republic's president, pledged to create a nation "where all citizens of all ethnicities feel appreciated."

"Today is probably a day of trepidation for some of you, but your property and your rights will be respected in the future," he said.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic launched a crackdown against ethnic Albanian insurgents led by Thaci in 1998 and refused to yield to Western pressure to halt the campaign. When NATO responded by launching airstrikes against Serbia and Montenegro, the last remaining Yugoslav republics, Yugoslav troops drove hundreds of thousands of Kosovars out of the region and killed thousands more.

Milosevic died in 2005 while awaiting trial for war crimes before a U.N. tribunal in The Hague.

The United States and leading European nations, including France, Britain and Germany, have supported Kosovo's move toward independence. But Russia, the Serbs' historical ally, has opposed independence, fearing it would incite other separatist movements in its backyard.

But no country supported the Russian call for the U.N. to declare Sunday's declaration "null and void," said Sir John Sawers, the British ambassador to the world body.


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all parties "to refrain from any actions or statements that could endanger peace, incite violence or jeopardize security in Kosovo and the region."

The European Union decided Saturday to launch a mission of about 2,000 police and judicial officers to replace the U.N. mission that has controlled the province since 1999. And U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States had "noted" that Kosovo had declared its independence and was reviewing the issue.